Albums that rocked my 2011

By Jerome Stuart Nichols | Life Editor
Added December 27, 2011 at 10:26 pm

2011 has been a pretty good year for music. So, as we sit on the precipice of 2012 and our impending doom because the Mayans were too lazy to keep counting, I thought I’d present you with the albums that rocked my life in 2011.

*Adele, “21”
Songs that slayed me: Someone Like You, Rumour Has It, Rolling In The Deep, Set Fire To The Rain*

Unlike most of America, I fell in love with Adele the first time I saw her music video for “Chasing Pavements” on VH1 in 2008. But, even I was floored when she came back three years later devastating the record industry with her record breaking album “21.”

From the open drum beat to “21“’s first single, “Rolling In The Deep,” I knew “21” was something different. Sure, the signature voice was there and so was the sharp, honest and witty lyrics, but there was a new element. It wasn’t until I saw the video for “Deep” that I realized what it was — confidence.

Sure, “19” was a great effort, but it lacked the epic force that a bit of confidence can bring to someone who’s already talented. By this time Adele had success and found herself doing things on her own terms. She wrote “21” because she felt like it, not because her mum was set to kick her out of the house if she didn’t. That freedom allowed her to grow, experiment, and produce the first truly great album of 2011.

*Britney Spears, “Femme Fatale”
Songs that slayed me: Til’ The World Ends, (Drop Dead) Beautiful, Trouble For Me, Up N’ Down, He About To Lose Me*

OK let’s get this out of the way now. Yes, Britney Spears is nothing more than a marionette who is told what to do and how to do it. Yes, Christina has a better voice. Yes, Ms. Spears lip-syncs for her life. But who cares!? “Femme Fatale” is awesome.

I’ve been a Britney fan for a while, but usually find that her albums are rather lack luster compared to her singles. Here, this is not the case. I love almost every song from track one to 16. With the exception of “Gasoline” and “Criminal,” she made a perfect dance album. Rather auto-tune made a perfect album because there is not a single word “sung” on the album without some sort of pitch correction. Luckily it’s light on most tracks so it doesn’t come off sounding like T-Pain’s kid sister.

Over the summer I was rolling around the streets of Ypsi in my now deceased pick-up truck rocking out to this hit-filled monster! Sure we’re quite far away from summer, in Michigan Winter Standard Time, but you can still dance around your dorm or apartment. Download it!

*James Blake, “James Blake”
Songs that slayed me: Wilhelms Scream, Limit To Your Love, To Care (Like You)*

Before 2011, James Blake wasn’t even on my radar for up-and-comers. But, after his inventive, mood-setting eponymous debut, I’m definitely paying attention.

Although this album is in my list of albums that rocked my 2011, I need to be clear that my 2011 was rocked by one song from the album — “Wilhelms Scream.” It’s track two on the album and I can only describe it as sex in audio form. It feels like a B-side from Sade’s latest album, which is a compliment. The song is moody, sexy and a little odd, which is how I would describe the whole album.

Blake uses a lot of unconventional sounds and digital distortions to give his work a unique sound. Although unique, it’s also definitely raw. I didn’t love the who thing, but I recognize talent and potential in this one. He’s definitely one to watch in 2012, if we aren’t all dead.

*E-40, “Revenue Retrievin’ Overtime Shift”
Songs that slayed me: Mr Flamboyant 2k11, Beastin’, Rear View Mirror*

I’ve secretly loved E-40’s unique and stylistic flow since I was kid. But it wasn’t until recently I really took some time to get to know his music and that’s all thanks to the first part of his 2011 double album. Sure, the second part, “Revenue Retrievin’ Graveyard Shift,” was good too, but the hits are in “Overtime.”

What took me by surprise with this album is that I tend to not like the rap that people who like rap like. I’m a big fan of people like Kanye West, Andre 3000 and Common, all of whom are considered to have sold out in recent years. When I saw this album on the suggested list on my Zune I took a listen and it turns this ish is bangin’!

I think what I like most about this album is it’s really fun; all the beats are solid, danceable and hood, with a hint of 90s gansta swag.

E-40 has been around for a while and has seen many ups and downs in popularity, but this might be the best album he’s ever put out that nobody bought. In fact most people I asked about it thought he retired. Trust me, he’s still going hyfie.

*Beth Ditto, “EP”
Songs that slayed me: Goodnight Good Morning, I Wrote The Book*

When I heard the lead singer of the Arkansas-based-but-far-more-popular-in-Europe-than-in-the-states pop/rock/punk trio, Gossip, was taking a step out on her own, I squealed like a little girl. When I finally got my hands on a digital copy of the four-track “EP,” I melted into a puddle of 80s snyth pop glamor and decadence.

I guess you can say I was surprised by the change of pace by the big-bodied and even bigger voiced Beth Ditto. “EP” is simply so far from Gossip’s rough basement punk beginnings on 2005’s Standing in the Way of Control and the super clean rock presented on 2009’s “Music for Men.” But it works. Although, with a voice like hers, you’d have to try really hard to make it sound bad.

I think what’s most surprising about the debut “EP” was that it was just Beth Ditto and another band, this was really a different style and experience, which makes me even more excited for the eventual full-length album she’ll make on Gossip’s next break.

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